sad news for racing
Reported SMI settlement very unsettling
By Marty Smith, Turner Sports Interactive March 25, 2004
2:03 PM EST (1903 GMT)
If recent reports are, in fact, true that the highly dramatized Speedway Motorsports, Inc./NASCAR feud will soon end with the sale of International Speedway Corp.-owned tracks in Rockingham, N.C. and Darlington, S.C. to SMI, you can all but kiss traditional NASCAR goodbye.
Before his John Hancock so much as dries on the contract, Bruton Smith will uproot a race date from each track and ship one to Texas and one to Las Vegas, leaving just one date to rotate between Rockingham and Darlington every other year.
Nineteen months between Nextel Cup Series races at Darlington? So long, tradition.
To me, this is a blatant last gasp effort by NASCAR to stay out of court. There is no other explanation. If it were solely about lack of ticket sales, ISC would move the dates to another venue within their ring of tracks, such as Kansas City, Chicago or Phoenix.
But it's not. This is about assuring the privately owned company's books aren't opened for the world to see.
And if the settlement does call for the sale of The Rock and the Lady in Black, it will continue the sport's migration from its Southeastern roots. The financially sensible, but traditionally painful NASCAR schedule realignment will get yet another boost.
Despite all the change the sport has undergone over the past several years, when the circus docks in Darlington, Rockingham and Martinsville, fans and competitors alike get a brief taste of how it used to be.
I'm all for expansion and financial growth and sold out venues and elite media markets -- all of which Dallas and Vegas offer -- but there's just something endearing about an old beat-up joint in the middle of nowhere that commands respect from all in its midst.
But respect doesn't pay the bills. Sold out seating does.
And Rockingham and Darlington can't sell out 50,000 seats. Financially, that makes them expendable in the eyes of the folks at NASCAR who stare at the bottom line, especially when they're facing a lawsuit that could potentially divulge so much information.
ALSO I feel certain they don't want that.
And if you think about it, this is the best possible scenario Smith could ask for. By snatching two race dates away from the Southeast, there will be a higher premium on scoring race tickets at Lowe's Motor Speedway for area fans.
Charlotte has had trouble selling out in recent years, you know.
Personally, I hope it doesn't come to this. Hopefully the settlement's outcome will be different, and I wrote this for nothing. NASCAR has given the Southeast a distinct identity for 50 years, and with the sport's evolution that identity has begun to fade.
It's sad, really. In a way, it would almost be easier to stomach if ISC had opted to move the dates, rather than the dates becoming the victim of a lawsuit.
Darlington has been too tough to tame for more than 50 years.
I guess we'll know soon whether or not she's finally met her match.
Marty Smith is a senior writer for NASCAR.COM. His column appears each Thursday. The opinions expressed are solely of the writer.
That's all folks!
This just really sucks if it turns out this way. Darlington is one track I've always wanted to see. My best friend who passed away last year and I were talking about going. I need to grab my son and get down there asap.
Swinging in the hammock
I also read that NASCAR may move one of the road couses to Mexico City. What the heck is that crap. At least keep it in the states if you have to spread out some. Losing the races that the old tracks sucks more and more and its a shame that it comes down to money. I still don't know why they won't sell out. The races there are great to watch.
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